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Legally yes, they will typically total a car if it cost more than 75-80% of its value to fix it. So here you are well over the value of the car to fix it.
Your recourse is to see if they will pay you the appraised value of the car and then let you buy it from them for a few hundred and you can then repair it yourself if possible.
You can also fight them on their assessment of the vehicle based on your improvements and get your own independent appraisal to support your position that it is worth more than they offer.
Yes, you can always just sue the other driver for the value of the car. But if it is their insurer who is offering the money, then if you accept it, they will require you to sign a release stating that you are accepting the money as full settlement. So you wouldn't want to settle with the insurer if you were going to sue the other driver..
No, they will declare the car totaled regardless, you can just refuse to settle for less than what you feel it is actually worth..
But the insurer probably won't dicker over $400 because it isn't worth hiring an attorney to defend the other driver in court if you sued..
Right, his insurance has to provide an attorney to represent him under his policy. And they would remove the case from small claims court to a higher court if they actually wanted to fight it.
If your insurer has been made aware of the accident, then they have a legal duty to report to the DMV as totaled.
So there is no way around having the car declared as totaled... it is just about how much you will be able get from the insurer or the other driver for the vehicle.
And no, it is not up to you to determine if it is totaled or not, that is purely the insurer's decision based on their specific formula for totaling a vehicle..
I just wanted to touch base with you and check in.
Did you have any further questions I can help with?